Republican lawmakers hounding the Obama administration for months over unanswered questions on the Benghazi attack will have their moment, on Wednesday, to demonstrate whether the internal response amounted to a cover-up — as whistle-blowers give long-awaited testimony expected to challenge the White House’s version of events.
Two of the whistle-blowers’ opening statements were obtained by Fox News, and in the statements they affirm their credentials and credibility in testifying about what happened last Sept. 11 in Libya.
“I am a career public servant,” Greg Hicks’ statement reads. “Until the aftermath of Benghazi, I loved every day of my job.” He was deputy chief of mission in Libya and became top U.S. diplomat in the country after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the terror attack.
The other statement, by Mark Thompson of the State Department Counterterrorism Bureau, is mostly biographical. Testimony also is due Wednesday from Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was formerly the regional security officer in Libya.
The administration has parried Republican allegations lately by arguing that the attack is old news, that the State Department already has investigated it and that Republicans are engaged in a political witch hunt.
But a series of carefully timed leaks on the whistle-blowers’ testimony indicates House Republicans could have the goods to at least merit a second look at the administration narrative.
“The question is, where’s the accountability for lying to the American people?” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Fox News. “The American people were lied to.”
Three whistle-blowers are set to testify shortly before noon to the oversight committee Issa chairs.
But Issa’s Democratic counterpart on the committee, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, voiced skepticism about the leaks of the witnesses’ claims in advance of the hearing.
“If there was any matter that cries out for bipartisanship, it’s this,” he told Fox News, while raising criticisms that information about some witnesses wasn’t available in advance to Democrats. “This is about making sure that our diplomatic core are safe. … I want to go wherever the evidence leads, but I want all the evidence.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a member of that committee, said if it weren’t for lawmakers’ persistence, “we would be left with a whole host of lies coming out of this administration, because they were not truthful about this.”
The “truth” surrounding the Benghazi attack has been elusive. The Obama administration has adamantly denied several of the latest charges, including a claim that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a key aide tried to cut the department’s own counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of reporting and decision-making on Sept. 11. The administration also denied that the whistle-blowers in question were intimidated — while behind the scenes questioning the credibility of the witnesses.
The witnesses are: Gregory N. Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attacks; Mark I. Thompson, a former U.S. Marine and presently the deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, and
The witnesses are expected to cover a breadth of material in their testimony Wednesday. Lawmakers have questioned to what extent security requests were ignored before the attack, whether the military could have done more to respond the night of the attack and whether talking points were intentionally changed for political reasons after the attack to downplay terrorism. The witnesses could address all three areas on Wednesday.
Issa claimed one “cover-up” is “undeniable” — that the State Department botched security in Benghazi in the run-up to the attack. But, he said, “it still doesn’t explain the president misleading the American people over a period of weeks.”
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